Brandon Halsey (7-0) has the chance of a lifetime to take the middleweight title from Alexander Shlemenko (50-8) this Friday at Bellator 126. He may be new to MMA, but Brandon Halsey has gone undefeated in his 7 career fights. His ground game is a force to be reckoned with when it comes time for Shlemenko to defend his title for the fourth time.
Your wrestling abilities definitely showed in your last fight with Brett Cooper. Do you think your ground game is your greatest strength against Alexander Shlemenko?
Halsey: Yeah that’s my strength and my background. I’ve also improved in my weakness which was kickboxing, so come time Friday you’re going to see a very well-rounded fighter.
When you did make the transition from Wrestling to MMA, did you find it difficult to learn striking techniques?
Halsey: Yeah it felt uncomfortable. Once you start to add in getting hit, it made it really uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Being able to throw punches and get hit at the same time was a big obstacle, but I was able to overcome it and I’ve gotten a lot better in my striking
What was it like to face a veteran like Shonie Carter in only your second career fight?
Halsey: I got the fight with only a week’s notice. I knew that he had a lot of fights, so it was about going in there and having fun. I just had to know that I was the better athlete and impose my will to win the fight. It was fun.
Do you always keep your weight very close to the middleweight limit?
Halsey: No my natural weight is around 210-215, so I usually walk around there. Now that I’ve come down to middleweight I have to really prepare myself to make weight, so taking a fight with a week’s notice would be pretty hard. I’m still in shape at 215, but I’m more muscular. 185 takes a lot more prepping and dieting. It’s a lot more work than getting to 205.
(Photo Courtesy of Bellator MMA)
What do you think about the recent weight cutting problems in MMA? Is there anything specific you do to avoid weight-cutting problems?
Halsey: It’s all about making sure you eat the right things because any time you don’t eat the right things it puts extra stress on your body. You have to make sure you’re eating the right things and constantly brining your weight at a slow rate rather than doing a dramatic weight cut where you’re just shooting through 15 pounds at one time. Being able to time your weight cut properly and do it slowly is what I like to practice. I don’t do too many cheat meals.
What did you make of the Marshall vs. Manhoef fight? The winner of your Friday matchup will face Manhoef next.
Halsey: I think it’s a good matchup. Obviously I don’t want to look past this fight, I want to look at what’s in front of me right now. That is in the back of my mind though, and it is in the future. I like to fight and I’m looking forward to it.
Do you spend a lot of time augmenting your wrestling game with jiu-jitsu or judo?
Halsey: One of my biggest weaknesses was striking, so that’s what I’ve been spending most of my time on. I also spend a lot of time wrestling and practicing submissions–not to be a professional jiu-jitsu guy, but to be able to do submission wrestling.
What do you think about wrestlers who struggle in modern MMA?
Halsey: It’s just going back to your basics and basic positions. I think people get too excited to get into a position and they get frustrated if they can’t make it work. A lot of wrestlers forget what their strengths are and they try to become strikers. That’s fine and all but you want to stick to what got you there.
Being 7-0, do you feel at all intimidated going against a guy like Shlemenko with a 50-8 record?
Halsey: No, I respect the guy. He’s a hard worker and he’s had a lot of fights. But come time friday, I put in the work, I worked my a** off and at the end of the night I’m looking too take that belt home.
(Photo Courtesy of Bellator MMA)
You’ve actually had a chance spar with Shlemenko at HB ultimate. What did you take away from your training session?
Halsey: I had the pleasure of working with him a couple of times at his camps so I’ve had first hand experience training with him. He showed me how he strikes and how he moves and everything like that. When you’ve fought someone once, it kinda gives you an idea of what they’re gonna come with. It definitely helped.
Would you say he’s predicatble fighter?
Halsey: I wouldn’t say he’s predictable, but he definitely has a certain style. He throws spinning back fists spinning back kicks–he’s a little unpredictable but I have the basic concept of his style. I think it did me more good training with him than it did for him to train with me because I’ve evolved a lot more since we’ve trained together.
What are your thoughts on the current smack talk and scuffles in MMA?
Halsey: You want to market the fight and blow it up for the fans, but you don’t want to make a circus out of it. With the The Cormier and Jones scrap, you don’t want to push it to the point of a brawl where people think these are “just dumb fighters who fight all the time.” I’d like to see more of an elegance to it, like a show that’s respectable.
Have you had a chance to meet Scott Coker since he came on board?
Halsey: I was able to introduce myself and he seems like good guy. Hopefully he takes Bellator in the right direction and really promotes it to make it big. I’m looking forward to the change–change is good, for the better. I hope it ends up taking the #1 spot because I want to fight for the #1 organization.
To the casual fan, why should they watch your fight verses anything else they could be watching Friday?
Halsey: It’s brining something new. It’s a guy coming up from starting MMA 2 years ago to developing into a well-rounded mixed marital artist to beat a guy with 60 fights. It will be something people are going to talk about. It’s going to be something for the fans to watch.
How do you feel about your time with Bellator? How do you compare it with other organizations?
Halsey: I haven’t fought for the UFC or any other big organizations. I fought for King of the Cage, but Bellator’s been really good to me. They really respect me and they’re always looking out for the fighters. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Bellator. I look forward to working with them in the future.
Catch Alexander Shlemenko vs. Brandon Halsey for the middleweight world title on Spike TV at 9/8C.